Reader Interview: Cliffhanging

Cliffhanging for real
Cliffhanging for real
Everyone has taken a risk or two. I have a couple of stories that end with the question “How exactly am I still alive?”

How about you? What is the craziest, riskiest, most exciting, or most over-the-top thing you’ve ever done…and why did you do it?

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144 responses to “Reader Interview: Cliffhanging”

  1. Eileen Landreth Avatar
    Eileen Landreth

    I went fishing in Missouri with my boyfriend, crossing a slew to a hidden lake, upon attempting to return via boat, across the slew a storm came up, unpredicted, and the downpour began, rain pelted us so hard it hurt, then the hail began, the boat started taking on water and we both had to start bailing between holding boat PFDs over our heads for protection. The cold rain caused an immediate fog to arise, creating a white out effect. We were bumping into stumps and I was terrified. The distance was only about two football fields end to end, but I was sure we were going to die in that storm. It was over in what seemed an eternity, yet was only about nine minutes, enough time to make me think how close we came to death’s door. That is something I will never forget.

  2. Jenna Elf Avatar
    Jenna Elf

    At 20 years old, living in coastal NC, in a dead-end job in a grocery deli, after my short term boyfriend was revealed to be sleeping around on me, when an internet acquaintance said “I know someone renting a room for $300/month in Orlando”… I said “Yes.”

    I convinced my mother (somehow) to drive me to the GA/SC border reststop on I-95. I did not have a license, or a car. I had $500 in my pocket, cash. No bank account, no credit card. I had never met the man who was going to meet us there to drive me the rest of the way. He arrived, we put my things in his Previa, and we set out. I moved to Orlando, FL. No friends, $200 to get me through a month of job hunting (with hopes of getting a job before that point, so I could pay the next month’s rent), no car, no self-sustainability except for a determinedness to get OUT of the hole I was in.

  3. david larson Avatar
    david larson

    Gee, I don’t know. Starting life as the illegitimate child of a welfare mother…in Montana…in the early ’60s was not the most stable start. Life from that point and onward was full of risks that would seem foolish today.

    Those were not the things I think of as BIG risks, just stupidity.

    I drowned at age 6. I was riding a log on a lake with other kids, far beyond the shallow water of the beach, when the log rolled, someone fell on top of me, and the last thing I remembered was looking up at black water and rising bubbles.

    An alert lifeguard and CPR are the reason I am alive today, as well as the reason I insisted my daughters learn to swim and swim well. I could not be more proud of the fact that they both became lifeguards.

    The risky things?

    Despite having grown up under some horrible examples of marriages, some attempted ‘parenting’ by live-in boyfriends, and other horrific parenting, I got married in 1988. Then, having lived most of my childhood on the move and in poverty, I told my wife I was going to give her the opportunity to be the stay-at-home wife and mother she wanted to be, despite my tenuous minumum-wage job.

    We decided, after a year of marriage, we were going to have to face the risks — we both knew, first-hand, of what COULD happen, and have a baby.

    When our first daughter was 18 months, I left a cushy job as a materials laboratory technician, and sold our first house. We moved to move to another state and I learned, from scratch, the business of cleaning windows on high-rise buildings. From rigging the tie-backs and booms to rappelling down the sides of buildings in swing seats.

    When that business went bust, [partially the owner’s fault, partially circumstances] we were back to the poverty-level we started at, and I insisted we have another child.

    With a three-year old and a four-month old, I raped my platinum-level credit card to start my own business, one I had no knowledge of. That meant giving up health care plans, retirement accounts, credit to fall back on, and, evnetually, most of our old connections.

    I still look back on those conscious decisions as riskier than anything I did herding cattle as a kid, or goofing around in the wilderness, or playing with cars. The fights I was in, one where I took my opponent to the emergency room, talking him out of pressing charges on the way. That time I told that biker he wasn’t intimidating, or that time I slid off the roof, or the time I walked 16 miles in the blizzard, those were nothing compared to making commitments that would alter the rest of my life.

    To say that one is adventure and that one is not is dependent on your point of view. I’ve known career soldiers, veterans of multiple combat engagements, who were scared to death of the thought of getting married or becoming a parent.

    ‘Life is so hazardous that, to date, no one has survived it.’

  4. Jean Lamb Avatar

    Well,there was the time I got to ride in the back seat of a T-38 and was taught how to do a barrel roll (though the pilot really had the most courage, I looked like a smaller, dark-haired version of Private Benjamin then).

    But aside from driving on black ice, which I will always find terrifying, the scariest thing I ever did for me was to go to the Seattle Science Paviliion and ride a bicycle (which was wired to the track) on a track waaay above the ground, with nothing to catch you if you fell. Once I started, I realized what a huge mistake it was, but there was nothing to do but to finish it. Brrr. But the kids were watching Mommy, so it would have been tacky to scream.

  5. JM Avatar

    I replied to this question regarding some of the intended and unintended risks I’ve taken, but the question (What is the craziest, riskiest, most exciting, or most over-the-top thing you’ve ever done…and why did you do it?) hung with me.

    Every human being on the planet has his/her own threshold defining what is risky and a time-frame when we define it as risky. At 9, I removed the trash from our snowbank and put myself there to see what it was like to have the snowplow drive by. The snowplow driver verbally ripped me to shreds, but now I know.

    Everyone who has posted has expressed their own personal threshold of risk (I haven’t read them all) whether it be going to a Wal-Mart Superstore on a Saturday afternoon to taking fire from enemy combatants in an Afghanistan hot-zone.

    No matter what the risk looks like from me to you, each of us has a different definition for risk and I applaud everyone who replied for taking the risk to reply. Personally, I should be dead twenty times over and my (third) marriage should have wound up in a blender based upon argument alone.

    Risk is a very personal thing. I am still wanting to take risk, both financial and physical, but NOT relational. Relationally, for me, mutual respect and trust are paramount. I’ve found my companion in trust and respect the third time around. Age has tempered my physical boundaries, but, financially, I still need to make up for my free-wheeling, unfettered youth.

    Maybe that’s what risk is, challenging our own personal boundaries until we are satisfied. Best of luck to all who keep challenging their boundaries to their own satisfaction.

  6. Jac Harr Avatar

    Hey, this isn’t exactly a response to the question, but I didn’t know how better to contact you. I’ve been a writer since I was seven, but it was your writing articles, that I read and reread almost to the point of memorization, that really made me what I am today: a mildly successful playwright and blogger with much bigger dreams for the future. I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work you’ve done to help others. 🙂

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Jac,

      Thank you for letting me know, and congratulations. I’m delighted I could help you start making your dreams into your reality. Please keep in touch. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.


  7. Stephanie Avatar

    What a wonderful question! (Just don’t tell my kids the answers till they’re older, eh?) I worked for 12 years in avionics in the military. During that time, I have been attacked by insurgents using mortars/rockets(they had horrible aim thank god, but will not ever forget that sound…worst thing, when the booms were close, we all ran toward em to make sure our co-workers/friends were all right), played hide and seek with a “suspected” suicide bomber(hint it’s not fun, and there really is no winning…if you find the guy and he goes boom…ouch….if you never find the guy, where the heck is he and when will he go boom/how can you stop him from doing so?), stood on a very tall maintenance stand less than 1 foot away from running C130 aircraft propellers while working on said engine, shoveled 2 feet of snow with a broom (i know, it doesn’t sound life threatening, but take into account how unprepared for that snow we were if all we had to move it with was brooms!), shoveled 2 ft of snow off aircraft wing so we could climb all over it while changing an engine (luckily no one fell/slipped off). Why did I do these things? It was my job, something I had (without realizing entirely what I was getting into) agreed to do. Why did I sign up for that job? For the challenge, I had considered going into the national guard so I could go to school, but decided it was silly for me to do something so important only “halfway”, i.e. not full time.

    I have done other stupid things…sledding off the barn roof in middle of winter, hiking 20 miles and 7000 ft up and over a mountain with no real preparation (other than military basic training/physical training), learned to ride a motorcycle, ski’d the toughest available ski course on my first ever skiing trip. Why did I do these things? They were fun and challenging (bordering on impossible for me to accomplish/stupid if you try; challenging). I survived, without breaking my neck/any other bones, and had a blast doing so.

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